Students and Faculty, Campuses and Communities Working Together to Make a Difference in Indiana

March 21, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS – Imagine mobilizing hundreds of students state-wide to serve communities in need.  Imagine faculty and staff members at universities and colleges throughout Indiana introducing their students to learning by serving.  Imagine organizations that have identified a need in their communities and are successfully partnering with colleges and universities in Indiana to meet those needs.

That is exactly what the members and partners of Indiana Campus Compact have been doing for the past 19 years.   Each year, Indiana Campus Compact recognizes their work and its impact on the citizens of Indiana through its Service Engagement Awards.  These awards recognize one engaged campus faculty member, staff member, student, and one community partner organization.

“There are a lot of things that happen at Indiana Campus Compact that I am grateful to be a part of each year. One of those things is recognizing outstanding individuals in the state for their contributions to student learning, local communities, and the work of Indiana Campus Compact,” said Dr. Maggie Stevens, Indiana Campus Compact’s Executive Director.  “It’s no easy task”, Stevens goes on to say, “having to choose the most remarkable person among a group of extraordinary people!”

One such remarkable person is Erin Wright of the University of Notre Dame, winner of the 2012 Richard J. Wood Student Community Commitment Award. Erin is junior, though her list of accomplishments and the depth of her passion for improving people’s lives would lead one to believe she is much further in her educational career.  Erin described her work as “compassionate service with the goal of capacity building.”  Erin is active in many programs at Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, has served on campus service committees as a commissioner, led service trips, helped launch a cooperative grocery store in a ‘food desert’ neighborhood, and participated in a summer service learning program at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.   But in reading the recommendation letters, it’s clear that Erin’s ability to lead her classmates, seek out extra assignments, rise above the expected, are all born out of what one of her professors calls her “collaborative spirit of solidarity.”  Professor Margaret Pfiel goes on to say, “she truly has a passion for contributing to the common good welling up from a deeply compassionate heart and a generous spirit.”

Dr. William (Bill) Oakes has a vita that would make any scholar look twice.  He went from a corporate career as a mechanical design engineer to leading students and faculty in reciprocal community service projects.  Professor Oakes, winner of the 2012 Brian Douglas Hiltunen Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Scholarship of Engagement Award is the Director of EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) at Purdue University.  Each semester EPICS guides nearly 400 students in more than 80 projects for 40 community partners.  That reach is enormous, and it’s thanks to the vision and commitment of Dr. Oakes along with faculty and students who work to improve the lives of their community members. Under Dr. Oakes’s direction, EPICS partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette in  an energy efficiency research project that resulted in changing the design of Habitat homes, increased their value to consumers, and reduced energy use.  No small feat, but the students were up to the challenge.  They found that the window air conditioner units traditionally used in the Habitat homes were actually increasing cooling costs to home owners.  Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette Executive Director Doug Taylor said, “it says a great deal about Professor Oakes that over the dozen years we have worked together, we continue to find benefit for our organization and encourage student learning.”

Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana is the winner of the 2012 Outstanding Community Partner Award. Nominated by Kathy L. Smith of Ball State University, Second Harvest provides food for 130 food pantries and meal programs which serve approximately 72,000 people each year.    Those numbers are impressive, 72,000 people a year receive much needed help to survive.  Just as impressive are the over 300 students who volunteer at the food bank –and who collectively have completed over 2000 hours of service.  What’s most impressive, and most lasting however, is the affect that the students have had on the community and Second Harvest has had on the students.  In another example of reciprocal partnerships, Ball State University students are provided an opportunity to help their fellow community members while processing their experiences so they leave with a more insightful social awareness.  In her nomination letter, Dr. Smith says of Second Harvest Operations Director, Joe Fox, “Joe plays a vital role in helping students reach that all too critical ‘light bulb’ moment. Joe understands how to fully engage his volunteers and as a result, those students walk away with an impactful service engagement experience.”

The final Service Engagement Award, the 2012 Outstanding Community Service Director Award, will be presented to Laura Weaver of Purdue University North Central. In his nomination letter, Dr. James B. Dworkin, Chancellor, Purdue University North Central, praised Laura for her “dedication to service learning and civic engagement” going on to say that “she works diligently to foster the development and strengthen the partnerships with the communities we serve.”   Laura’s accomplishments during the first 4 years of her time at Purdue North Central speak for themselves – her work on the Carnegie Community Engagement Elective Classification, the President’s Community Service Honor Roll, the President’s Interfaith and Community Campus Challenge, and the University’s invitation to join the Talloires Network are all great honors.  But it goes deeper than that.  Of her work, Weaver says, “the transformative power of these service-learning relationships, from a small connection between myself and a newly engaged faculty member to the time-tested partnership between a faculty member and a community partner, is evident in the lives of the students we touch, and the campus and community where we work and live.”

The award winners will be recognized at an evening reception and awards program as part of the Indiana Campus Compact Service Engagement Summit on March 29, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Along with the public recognition, the award winners will receive a cash gift to donate to the community partner of his or her choice in order to further its service to the community.

Indiana Campus Compact supports higher education’s efforts to develop students into well-informed, engaged citizens. By providing programs, services, and resources, ICC serves as a catalyst for campuses and communities to improve people’s lives through service-learning and civic engagement initiatives. For more information, please visit www.indianacampuscompact.org.

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